Not Her Cup of Tea – Part 12

Katherine peeled off the last article of her clothing and stepped into the shower, as Edmund busied himself with chasing a butt-naked Ken around the living room. Ken erupted with laughter when his father finally caught him and raised him in the air, his sister fumbling to put a pair of pyjama pants on him.

“Ken… hold.. STILL!” Sarah grumbled, as his legs swung in the air in front of her face.
“Daddy, this is too hard.” She whined.

Edmund shook his head and held his hand out for Ken’s pyjamas. Sarah looked almost identical to her mother, and she probably learnt the pouting from Katherine, too. She handed the pair of pants to him and observed as he swiftly pulled it on Ken, who was still a giggling mess.

“Okay, okay. Off to bed, you two.” Katherine shooed the two kids to their bedroom, locking hands with her husband. And just like every other night, they stood by the doorway, said their goodnight wishes, and closed the door.

Ken waited patiently on his bed until his parents’ footsteps faded away, then crept silently in the dark towards the door. He slowly turned the knob and pulled, and then
went back to bed. He could sleep better now that the door was left slightly ajar, letting some light from the corridor fall onto the quilt of his bed.

Outside in the living room, Katherine had cuddled closely with her husband on the couch. She was feeling contented, like a small boulder had been lifted off of her shoulders. Sure, Ken’s flu had not dissipated even after he downed a warm cup of matcha tea, but she had to give it time. She even made Sarah and Edmund drink a cup each; she wasn’t going to take any chances with the rest of her family, either. Nothing but the sounds of their breathing could be heard, the soft beating of their hearts, the faint snoring coming from the children’s bedroom, and the tapping of the remote as Edmund scrolled past numerous movies to find a good one to watch.

Katherine sighed deeply. Her only thoughts were about how exhausted she felt, both mentally and physically. Just last week, everything was going splendidly. Ken hadn’t had the flu in 3 months, and she had a potential client – not that she didn’t have others, but like tissue rolls, it’s nice to have back-ups under the sink in case one pulled out.

Or found another brand manager. With the perfect manicure. Katherine thought to herself.

What she wasn’t able to comprehend was why Nihon’s Teas would look for another brand manager when they already had her in on it. And she was making good progress too. The many hours invested in discussing over the marketing plan, and the major changes she had to go through due to the tight budget Akira declared the company to have, she would have never thought she could be replaced.

Then, something in her mind clicked.

“You’re one of the good ones, Ms Katherine.” Akira’s voice echoed in her head and Katherine sat up, causing Edmund to jerk at the sudden movement. His hand was still tapping away on the remote, and the selection box on the screen stopped at a chick-flick, “The Holiday”.

“Honey? What’s wrong?”

But she continued staring into empty space. “My client… he… important..” she murmured, getting up and went to look for her phone.

Edmund just stared at his wife as she disappeared into the hallway, his eyebrows scrunched together. She had always been one to have her work on her mind, even at
the oddest of hours.

At one point in time, it worried him that it was all she would think about and that they would probably never have kids. She would always disappear right after their lunch dates, or halfway through a movie, saying that she had a meeting with a very important client, or a “VIC” as she liked to call them.

All her clients seemed to be a VIC, he thought. Eh. I’ll ask her about it later.

“Sorry, the mobile number you are trying to reach is not available at the moment, please try ag-”

Katherine furiously tapped on her phone again. With the crazy morning traffic getting on her nerves, she didn’t need this right now. Last night it occurred to her that she may not
be the only brand manager that Akira had consulted.

“Siri, write an email to Akira Ito.” She spoke aloud, while her phone beeped.

She needed to know what he meant when he said she was one of the good ones. One of them? Had he been consulting with multiple brand managers, including Isabelle? And if so, why would he tell Katherine about the company’s tight funds if he didn’t think she could help? She was dumbfounded.

On the bright side, Ken woke up that morning bright-eyed and seemingly enthusiastic about the day. It was the last Friday of the month, and that meant another school excursion. They were going to the Science Centre, and Ken couldn’t stop talking excitedly about the dinosaur exhibition.

Katherine glanced at the thermal flask beside her. Maybe the green tea did wonders for her son, just like the old lady from the oriental shop said it would.

A new stack of papers sat at the corner of her desk when she walked into her office. The top paper read in bold black ink: PENDING PROPOSALS. Letting out a sigh of relief, Katherine welcomed the distraction and got started on the first one.At least it would take her mind off of Nihon’s Teas for a while.

Akira paced impatiently around the room, waiting for his son to close the deal with one of his prospective sponsors. They had been in there for nearly half an hour now, and he couldn’t wrap his head around it. What was taking Katashi so long?

He would’ve barged into the office to speak to his son, but he was a respectful man, and continued walking up and down the office that he used to run. His eyes darted from portrait to portrait, hanging proudly on the wall facing the elevators.

The stunningly detailed art pieces were the first things anyone would see when they step onto the floor of Nihon’s Teas. They depicted the wise, age-old faces of the founding fathers of the company, and Akira paused solemnly in front of his father’s portrait.

He remembered how happy his father was when they found a patch of land to grow their tea leaves, which was a job they left to the ladies of the family. Akira recalled helping his mother during the harvest season, or “Shincha” in Japanese, and how she would always call the little leaves the “leaves of good luck”. She had green fingers and the tea bushes would always flourish under her care and those whom she taught.

“Akira, know that you are lucky,” She would say. “Our family has been growing tea like this for decades, and none other has the same benefits as our teas. It has brought us good luck and good health. Do you know why?” And Akira would shake his head, even though he knew what she was going to say by heart. It was always the same.

“It is the Shincha season, perfect for picking tea leaves. As your grandmother used to say, drinking tea whose leafs were picked during Shincha will bring you good health. It is the only way to drink tea.” She would explain time and time again.

He had never gotten tired of his mother’s stories.

Otosan?” Akira tore his eyes from the hard stare of his father’s and turned around. “You could’ve called to let me know you were here,” Katashi said.

Akira remained silent.

With one hand in his pocket, Katashi invited his father into his office, and waited for him to speak. Akira, on the other hand, was looking around the now unfamiliar room. The few accolades that used to hang behind the great desk had disappeared, a vertically long painting of a riverside and long uncut grass took their place. Even the small bonsai tree which he had kept ever since he took over his father as manager of the company was gone.

A stack of books now sat in its place.

“It… died.” Katashi explained ruefully, following his father’s gaze.

“I had that tree for years, and did nothing but took great care of it.”

“Dad, it’s just a plant-”

“It’s not just about the plant, Katashi,” Akira’s cut him off, his expression unreadable – a mix of sadness, anger, doubt, and maybe… fear?

“8 months. That was all I could stand to see you let this company fall. You rejected my ideas to market our tea further, you disliked my suggestion about Green City, and now you’re suddenly taking control of the situation with a new brand manager? Who is she?”

Katashi opened his mouth to speak, but quickly closed it when Akira’s phone went off.

He watched as his father fished his phone out of his pocket.

“We’re not done yet.” His father snapped, and walked out of the room, his eyes already falling to the phone screen.

You have 1 new email from Katherine Chan.

Continue Reading Not Her Cup of Tea – Part 13